The Facebook news ban in Australia shows how the company could stop misinformation if it wanted to
What is Facebook without news? People and publishers in Australia are now finding out.
When I read the opening line from Kerry Flynn's recent article discussing Facebook's ban on news in Australia, I'll be honest my initial reaction was "probably better, I'd imagine."
The problem is, I didn't realize (at the time) that much of the misinformation on the platform was still being allowed to be disseminated without issue, while other important news sources (especially those related to public health) were blocked from doing so.
According to NBC's reporting, Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said he spoke to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg soon after the news ban took effect. "Facebook's actions were unnecessary, they were heavy-handed, and they will damage its reputation here in Australia," Frydenberg said.
Which brings me back to my initial thought: Facebook is already such a toxic environment for both individuals and democracies around the world, I just can't help but think no news on Facebook could actually be a good thing. Let Facebook go back to its original purpose of connecting people – this will never happen though, as long as Facebook has the ability to cling to relevance.
It'll never happen because at the moment, Facebook is too big and makes way too much money to willingly make a pivot like that. It would likely drastically shrink its market valuation. Hence why we all need to do our part and not use Facebook, at the very least until there is new leadership.
But why is news banned on Facebook in Australia?
In short, it's due to a new law that has yet to even be finalized, the new law would enforce rules that would mean Facebook would have to pay publisher's a share of its revenue. Instead of going along with that, Facebook is bullying an entire country and its people.
"...to save itself from having to pay a few million dollars to Australian news organizations for the work their journalists do, Facebook has decided to punish all Australians by removing their access to news on its platform," Australian Medical Association President Dr. Omar Khorshid said.
Khorshid continued: "It is truly ironic that Facebook has allowed health misinformation to be spread via its platform throughout this pandemic, yet today much of this misinformation remains on Facebook while official information sources are blocked … [The decision is] corporate bullying at its worst."
How come it's so easy for Facebook to stop the flow of real news but not misinformation?
That's the real question, in my opinion. Why was Facebook able to make such sweeping changes to its system to block Australian news organizations as well as public health agencies (including domestic violence support networks) from posting but they can't fight the literal flood of misinformation stemming from the platform?
And the unfortunate answer is now very apparent: because it makes them money. When threatened with having to give a cut of revenue to companies that help make Facebook what it has become, they completely shut them out. The only difference between real news and misinformation is that misinformation sources aren't (yet) asking for a piece of the pie. And that my friends, is sad af.
What should we do?
For starters, stop using Facebook as a place for news. It's not. That was never the original intention of the site and it should never have become the intention for the site. Apparently, 30 percent of Australians get news and information from Facebook – that's a lot of people, I'd encourage them to step outside their Facebook bubble and check other sites and sources. It may take a little more work but you'll be a much more informed person for it.
What do you think about the Facebook news ban in Australia? Who's in the right here? Let us know in the comments or Twitter.
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